Program Mission

For 30 years, the National Bioneers Conference has connected thousands of people with practical, visionary solutions for humanity’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. The Bioneers Youth Leadership Program launched in 2001 with the intention of giving young people a space to share with one another and develop as leaders in the movements to build a more equitable and regenerative future.

Through this Youth Leadership Program, Bioneers offers young people the opportunity to connect, build skills, and engage their activism through talking circles, interactive skill-building workshops, mentoring sessions, and creative projects. By addressing multiple issues from an intersectional perspective, we offer youth an opportunity to learn new practices, connect with allies and express their activism through media and the arts as a means of healing and reconciliation. 

In 2018, we supported 458 youth scholarships to Bioneers. These young people, ages 13-23 represent the most diverse constituency within Bioneers – over half are youth of color, and a significant number identify as LGBTQ+. We strive to offer an inclusive space where diverse youth voices can be heard, amplified, and echoed.

The Bioneers Youth Leadership Program celebrates difference and encourages youth to co-create the worlds they wish to bring forward – worlds that prioritize environmental and racial justice, worlds that transcend the gender binary, worlds that decolonize, and foster right relationship to ourselves, to one another and the natural world that we are all a part of.

During the conference, we offer youth participatory programming through a facilitated orientation, mentor circles as well as youth-led workshops. Youth are also prominent in the conference program, including daily Youth keynotes and performances on the main stage as well as in panels and workshops. 

In collaboration with our Indigeneity program, we work directly with students and educators to create an educational model for cross-cultural understanding between Native and non-Native students. We provide access to free classroom-ready coursework and teaching materials.

The values and skills young people gain in their formative years shape how they move through the world for the rest of their lives. Youth-led movements do change the world, and youth leadership is a priceless investment in our future. Numerous young people who’ve had their hearts and minds opened at Bioneers have gone on to do transformative work in the world. We are honored to be a part of their path and have a deep appreciation for their continued leadership in our collective efforts to building a more just and regenerative world.

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Program History

At the 1999 Bioneers conference, a spontaneous round of applause rang through the hall as cell phone connection was made. Julia Butterfly Hill was protesting the clear-cutting of old-growth forests from her 180-foot perch in a 1000-year-old redwood tree that she called Luna. She electrified the audience as she described life in the canopy and reflected on her experience as a 23-year-old activist. The next year after Julia descended from Luna and keynoted in person, she saw the need to expand the presence of youth and organized an impromptu session on the lawn with about 30 young people.

Julia Butterfly Hill sowed the seeds of the Bioneers Youth Leadership Program (YLP). From there this program has shot up and has nurtured thousands of young leaders that have gone on to meaningful work in the world.

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